The best way to help ease the suffering of those Meghalayans living along the disputed border with Assam is to engage in dialogue with the neighbouring state in an attempt to sort out the differences.
This was the opinion of Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma, who was responding to a short duration discussion tabled by opposition legislator Charles Marngar today.
The various arms of the Assam government, whether it be the police, forest guards or even its autonomous tribal councils, are frequently accused of harassing Meghalayans along the border. The Mukroh Massacre, however, in November last year went beyond mere harassment and led to the death of five villagers.
Despite this, Sangma expressed the need to find an amicable solution to the vexed border issue, otherwise the issue of harassment will keep cropping up from time to time.
On the most recent problem, that of tax collection by the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council from broom stick cultivators in disputed Block 2, the CM said the issue was raised during talks between the Deputy Commissioners of Ri-Bhoi and West Karbi Anglong district. Sangma said the matter was discussed in March 2022 wherein four check gates were collecting tax of Rs 7 per kilogramme of broom stick from the cultivators in the area.
Sangma also informed the House that he would discuss with his Assam counterpart about the issue of tax collection during the next talks on the second phase of the border negotiations after the budget session of the Meghalaya Assembly.
On the hardship faced by Meghalaya farmers, the Chief Minister informed the House that his government has withdrawn broom stick from the list of forest produce so that the farmers no longer have to pay taxes on it. Instead, it is now listed as an agro-forestry product.
VPP opposition legislator, Ardent M Basaiawmoit, said that due to the soft attitude of the state, Assam interferes with the developmental work taken up by Meghalaya. Sangma, however, denied this, as the Meghalaya government has, he said, strongly protested against interruptions by Assam on such projects along the border in the past.
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